A Short Story BY ERIN FORSTER
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. Not really. I didn’t do the washing up. Instead I sit at my desk. Again, I stretch the truth. We’ll call it a desk for now, but I (all six foot one of me) can hardly fit my legs beneath and someone’s pulled off all the laminate edging – it just doesn’t have the aesthetics of the desk that you imagine you will write your magnum opus at/on.
I am smoking a cigarette gulping a cup of tepid instant coffee. You know you’re an adult when you do the washing up IMMEDIATELY after you’ve eaten, drunk, cleaned the fridge out, not on a need-to-wash basis. I need a coffee, therefore I wash.
I’m wary of being branded one of these ‘coffee-drinkers’.
“I CANNOT FUNCTION WITHOUT MY MORNING COFFEE”.
To clarify, I’m not bourgeois nor do I wear a black roll neck. Not that there’s anything wrong with bourgeois-living or roll neck-wearing, I just happen to not partake in such activities. And I don’t drink cappuccinos. No, I don’t need a coffee, sometimes I think I don’t even really like it. It’s just sometimes I have nothing better to do.
You meet me with an itchy back. I showed my best friend. She looked up my rash on Google Images. The one that matched most closely were ‘vagina pimples’. Now I’m going to the doctor because no-one wants an STI on their back.
I’m unnerved as I board the 29. It’s stopped at York Way bus stop which usually only serves the 390 and the 274. However, not so unnerved that I cry or get off as I rationalise that is most likely on diversion. Also, one needs these little adventures in life. The bus driver is of a modern ilk. She calls me ‘darling’ and has a tall, blonde weave and her “Hello Kitty” lunchbox sits between the steering wheel and the laminate that stops her from getting accosted by passengers who have forgotten to top up their Oyster Cards (also of a modern ilk). She displays her inch long false nails (also “Hello Kitty” themed and glittery) as she pushes the button to dispense a ticket to me as I have forgotten to top up my Oyster Card.
I take a seat nearing the back of the bus, avoiding those reserved for the elderly, disabled and pregnant which are only ever sat in with a perpetual stream of unwanted moral dilemma attached, unless you are elderly, disabled or pregnant or fat. I rock along with the movement of the bus and read Forster.
I notice a man reading also. He is a vision in beige, his brown corduroys and fading t-shirt dirtied by constant wear and an absence of Daz. A well-kempt lady sits in front of him and talks on the phone. The tap of her false nails against her phone annoys me more than it ought but sound feels amplified in the silences between the whirring and spluttering of the engine. She answers her phone. She is working on a theatre project I understand:
“Yes, hello darling, sorry I missed your call earlier…umhmm… yes, yah, yah… so my thoughts, I want her scantily dressed and I want her coming in, he grabs her and pushes her against the side… yah, yah completely minimalist set… then I want the lights to dim and it to get completely animalistic, yah, yah…”
And so she continues as a woman and child board the bus. I pick up his escaped teddy and hand it to him as she struggles to drag his buggy on. She thanks me. We continue on in silence, apart from the loud tapping and the well-kempt lady’s soliloquising and the bus’ whirring.
The voice of the bus announces my stop and I ready myself to get off, thanking God that my risk paid off and the bus on diversion has delivered me to my destination. I lock eyes with the beige man with the book. I see it’s the Bible. I see it’s the Word. He closes it jamming his finger between the leaves so as not to lose his place. Without unlocking his eyes, he preaches to the bus his great sermon on the deadly sin of same-sex loving. He brandishes his bible like a sword as he condemns all those sexual inverts to the confines of a brim and burnstone hell, an eternity of Divine punishment. He points his finger at me direct. I step off the bus.
Now I’m at the doctors and I think that perhaps I don’t have a back-STI and maybe I just have heat bumps. But somehow I don’t want to get the bus anymore, so I walk home and I have a cigarette and another cup of coffee. But I leave it for too long and the fag burns down leaving a tower of ash because I’m staring out of the window that looks over the street, which frames me like a Picasso. In his blue period.